Something funny happened in the 15th Winter X Games last year: Shaun White failed to qualify for the finals in the snowboard slopestyle event.
It wasn't a huge upset, as White had skipped the slopestyle event altogether in 2010 so he could focus his attention on getting geared up for the halfpipe event at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He was rusty, plain and simple.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise to see White bow out of the slopestyle competition so early. He went into last year's X Games with eight slopestyle medals, including five golds.
White himself didn't sound too heartbroken over his disappointing performance, according to the Denver Post.
I love the fact that I'm being challenged. It's the best feeling in the world. I've finally gotten that boast of 'Wow, this is what's to come and this is where I need to be.' I'm so inspired right now to go learn things. I'm definitely amped up to go and ride the halfpipe, which I'm feeling geared up for. I'm just happy that I was able to show up and do my best. That's why I'm here."
Upon reading a statement like that, you get the feeling that White won't sweat it if he doesn't redeem himself at this year's Winter X Games, which kick off on Thursday.
But White will redeem himself. You can take that to the bank.
It may sound like a bold prediction, but it's really not. White's biggest problem last year was simple rust, and this year rust shouldn't be an issue. He participated in the slopestyle last year, and he participated in the slopestyle at the Winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge this past December. He didn't qualify for the finals, but ESPN.com claims that some of White's competition is operating under the notion that White was merely there to survey the field.
There's also the Olympic incentive to consider. slopestyle will be introduced into the Olympics at the 2014 games at Sochi. We know that White is going to do his thing in the halfpipe at the Olympics, but he could easily decide to go for broke in both the halfpipe event and the slopestyle event. The only thing better than one gold medal is two gold medals, and so on.
Because White still has a couple years to train and prepare for Sochi, it's not like he needs to medal in the slopestyle event at Winter X. He merely needs to show that he can still be competitive, which will entail at least qualifying for the finals.
Qualifying won't be easy, mind you. White is up against some pretty talented competition, and young too. White is no geezer in his own right, but the kids he'll be competing against know all about him and what he's done. They'll be looking to earn bragging rights by beating him.
That, of course, is yet another incentive for White to bring his A Game.